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Nicole Beharie and Orlando Jones on supernatural sleuthing in 'Sleepy Hollow'

Orlando Jones and Nicole Beharie
Orlando Jones and Nicole BeharieFox

The Fox TV series "Sleepy Hollow" is a modern-day twist on Washington Irving’s classic. Ichabod Crane (played by Tom Mison) is resurrected and pulled two-and-a-half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers. Revived alongside Ichabod is the infamous Headless Horseman who is on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod quickly realizes that stopping Headless is just the beginning, as the resurrected rider is but the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and only one of the many formidable foes that Ichabod must face to protect not only Sleepy Hollow, but the world. As Ichabod finds himself in 2013’s Sleepy Hollow, he discovers a town he no longer recognizes and grapples to understand. Teaming up with Lt. Abbie Mills (played by Nicole Beharie), a young cop who has her own supernatural experiences, the two embark on a mission to stop the evil that has awoken along with Ichabod and that now is seeping into this once-sleepy town.

Orlando Jones and Nicole Beharie at New York Comic-Con 2013 in New York City
Orlando Jones and Nicole Beharie at New York Comic-Con 2013 in New York CityCarla Hay

Clues from the past enlighten mysteries in the present, as each episode features a flashback to Ichabod’s life in 1776. Ripe with untold stories from American history and cloaked in mythology, the divide between present and past becomes dangerously blurred. Lives are in the balance, including that of Ichabod’s late wife, Katrina (played by Katia Winter), who is trapped in a mysterious netherworld. In his pursuit to save her, Ichabod uncovers secrets about her, leaving him with countless questions. Not everyone believes Ichabod’s tales of 1776 and supernatural evils, especially the new head of Abbie’s police precinct, Capt. Frank Irving (played by Orlando Jones). When faced with bizarre events he can’t explain, Capt. Irving reluctantly turns to Ichabod and Abbie to investigate.

Ichabod’s extensive first-hand knowledge of our country’s hidden history, coupled with Abbie’s superior profiling and modern threat assessment skills, make them a formidable duo. The complex pasts of the pair, from Ichabod’s inclusion in the powerful and secretive Freemasons Society to Abbie’s childhood visions, will help them solve the intricate puzzles of Sleepy Hollow in order to protect its – and the world’s – future. As history repeats itself, the oddly-linked pair will draw on the real stories and secrets this nation was founded on in their quest to stop an increasingly vicious cycle of evil. Here is what Beharie and Jones said during a roundtable interview with me and journalists at New York Comic-Con in 2013.

Where do you usually watch “Sleepy Hollow”?

Jones: [He says in a fake British accent] I’m usually on set with Abbie, obviously, but I usually watch it on iTunes.

Beharie: It’s usually at work. The last episode that aired, I was off that night, so I watched it in bed. I can’t watch the whole thing. I have that actor thing like, “Oh, it’s my scene. I’ve got to change it to something else.” It’s a lot of fun seeing what everyone else is doing when you’re not there …

So that’s really refreshing, You’re like, “What else is going on in this world?” And it’s nice to have it fleshed out. And I also think that helps when it goes back to work: seeing what’s happening and how everyone’s reacting to it.

Jones: And it’s one thing to read it. It’s another thing to see what that person did with that moment. We’re all on such a crazy schedule that we’re not always together.

And what scene in “Sleepy Hollow” disturbed you the most when you first watched it on screen?

Jones: When first saw the [“Sleepy Hollow”] pilot, I was like, “Whoa, OK!” It ends with something that I thought was super-creepy. I’ve been a fan of [Nicole Beharie] since she did “The Express,” which is a movie I really love since I’m a football fan. So it’s been amazing to work with her and Tom [Mison]. The show is scary, but the shocking thing is it’s funny. It surprises me every time.

Speaking of comedy, Orlando, you’ve done a lot of comedy in the past, but your Frank Irving character is very serious. Do you like that or do you want to see your character lighten up?

Jones: No, because I think it’s important to hold the premise up to scrutiny. It’s a fun show, but the believability of it is something she holds down so wonderfully.

Beharie: That’s what you do.

Jones: And also, when I do a comedy, I do a comedy. This show is not that. And this role is not that. So from an actor’s perspective, this is what this is, and I don’t need it to be anything more than that.

Beharie: But you can also be devilishly funny, because the comedy is bred out of the ridiculousness of the premise and what’s coming to our doorsteps.

Jones: Part of the reason I stopped doing comedy, frankly, was they became broad. I was always more into character-based reality comedy stuff. I was always a fan of Tom Hanks making the transition from “Bosom Buddies” to “Big” to what you see now — even “Forrest Gump,” which is not a comedy, but is a wonderfully funny movie.

So I like when it’s really grounded. I think Irving says things that are really funny, but he’s not a funny person. I like that you don’t have to push to reach for it, and that’s always fun to do.

“Madtv” was a sketch comedy show. It’s a different beast. It had very simple rules. Either you were playing some loud chicken guy, or it’s about the premise, which is something that’s funny. It’s different styles of comedy, certainly.

But look, people don’t know Robert De Niro now from “Raging Bull.” They know him from “Meet the Parents,” which is mind-boggling on a certain level, but I think it’s so great that we no longer have to pretend the audience is stupid. You guys are acutely aware of everything. You understand what it is. And you really allow us to do different things. That’s really exciting to me, and I really enjoy that.

I find [Nicole Beharie] wonderfully funny. And it’s going to be fun for me to see her in different roles where she gets to do that part of it, whereas on [“Sleepy Hollow”], she carrying so much of a difficult balance.

What’s it like to be on a TV show like “Sleepy Hollow” that has obsessed fans and to communicate with them on the Internet or at events like Comic-Con?

Jones: I get to be a fan. It’s not real complicated. It’s nice to break down the fourth wall. It’s surprising to me that fans didn’t realize that we’re human, Trekkies or “Star Wars” fans or what have you. So it’s fun to break the fourth wall. It’s fun to know what the rules are, but I’ve always known what the rules are, so it’s not all that hard.

Beharie: He’s sort of my entertainment papa. He’s like, “So Nicole, what are you doing tonight?” “Oh, learning my lines.” “Do you have time to go online?” “Oh, it’s going to make me self-conscious.” “That’s stupid. Connect with people. They want to know.”

It’s actually been refreshing. I’m learning a lot. He really has been connecting us and showing us how important it is. And I think, subsequently, the fans feel closer and tune in and care more.

And they have a lot of interesting questions and ideas. And sometimes we’re like, “Ooh, we didn’t actually think about that. I’m working on the script all the time, and I didn’t think about that.” They have such great minds, it’s great to connect with everybody.

Jones: Well, we don’t own it anymore. It belongs to all of us. And that’s the most fun thing about any version of entertainment. We own this together.

Your voice is important as our voice. And not shutting that voice out is, for me, what I want to do. Before digital [media] existed, you couldn’t do it. And now you can.

Abbie and Ichabod’s relationship has been great to watch. What’s it been like to take Abbie on this journey?

Beharie: I just feel so lucky. You do the pilot; you have no idea where it’s going to go … The fact that I get a lot of episodes to connect and figure out what the differences are. I love that I’m a modern woman, and he’s from this other time. And there are racial barriers, so many historic things he hasn’t seen happen; things that I’m not aware of that he’s witnessed.

I just love that we have so much to draw on, and that we both have so many resources as well at our disposal to conquer the demons or whatever. It’s been great. And this experience parallels that, in a way, because Tom and I have no idea what’s going on. We’ve never gone through this kind of thing before, and it’s happening so quickly that it’s very similar and kind of close to our hearts.

For more info: "Sleepy Hollow" website